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Norton – Only 42% of People Can Tell if a Wi-Fi Network is Secure or Not

Wednesday, Jun 29th, 2016 (9:06 am) - Score 1,033

Can you honestly tell if a public WiFi network is secure or not? It may be better to assume that none of them are. A new survey from Internet security giant Norton (Symantec) has revealed that 61% of consumers believe their personal information is safe when using such a network.

Apparently most people make the mistake of assuming that all Wi-Fi networks available in public (e.g. airports, hotels and cafes) have security built-in, even though this might not always be the case. If you’re not careful then you could also end up connecting to a hotspot that’s been hijacked or even deliberately setup (spoofed SSID) by hackers to fool you.

On top of that the younger you are, the more trusting of public Wi-Fi you might be. Some 68% of so-called “Millennials” (i.e. people who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century) trust public Wi-Fi, but this falls to 55% for those over the age of 55. Parents (66%) are also more likely to think public Wi-Fi is safe than non-parents (59%).

Other Study Highlights

* Over half of respondents have logged into personal and social media accounts while using unsecured Wi-Fi networks, potentially compromising the credentials to their personal and professional emails.

* One in five consumers have accessed financial/banking information over public Wi-Fi.

* Once ware of the risk, the survey found that consumers’ top concerns include: Unauthorized access to financial information (85%) and personal photos/videos (72%), getting infected with malware (84%) and having user information stolen (85%).

The problem is made worse by the fact that some people allow their devices to automatically connect whenever an accessible Wi-Fi hotspot is within reach, which is probably one of the most dangerous things that you can do.

Last year two security firms, F-Secure and Mandalorian Security Services, demonstrated the threat by hacking into the Internet surfing activities of three politicians (David Davis MP, Mary Honeyball MEP and Lord Strasburger) while they were connected in London (here). Sometimes just setting a password, even a strong one, isn’t always enough.

One of the ways to mitigate the threat is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, which gives you a secure layer with which to link to the Internet over a WiFi network. A lot of VPN options exist and naturally Norton now has its own WiFi Privacy app that does much the same thing, although the best ones tend to attract a small monthly or yearly subscription fee.

However the best option, where available, may be to simply avoid public WiFi and stick to using Mobile Broadband connectivity instead. Modern mobile services are a lot better thanks to 4G, although you do need to keep a closer eye on your data usage and signal quality does seem to vary like the wind.

Norton’s online survey was conducted with 9,135 adults who use Wi-Fi across nine markets, but mostly in the USA.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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